Course Outlines

Courses by Eric Rabkin

Professor Eric Rabkin, University of Michigan, has offered a number of different courses examining speculative fiction in the past.

He first came to our attention due to his course on Coursera, a site that offers free university classes, called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. You can still sign up for it -- another session starts in October. The course description is as follows:

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from "Cinderella" to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world.

Here's links to the course outlines and syllabi for Rabkin's other SF courses:

English 341: Fantasy

What is fantasy, in our literature and in ourselves? This course will explore the nature and uses of fantastic narratives from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present, drawing texts from such widely different fields as fairy tale, science fiction, and the so-called New Novel. No special background in literature is required for registration, but we will begin immediately to consider broad concepts of art and analysis that should help increase understanding and enjoyment of the books and develop ourselves as imaginative and incisive thinkers.

English 342: Science Fiction

The march of science and technology has shaped—or deformed?—humanity since the inception of stone tools and language, and does so now more rapidly than ever. Science fiction, the art most responsive to the human implications of changes in science and technology is arguably the most important modern popular genre. This course will examine both the history and the diversity of science fiction prose by reading some of the best examples written since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Generally, we will approach each primary text in three ways: through a consideration of its backgrounds (scientific, mythic, and so forth), through specific questions the text raises (moral questions, questions of plausibility, and so forth), and through the traditional discipline of criticism (what is science fiction? what is the relationship of character to theme? and so forth).

A Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction

A Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction is a website put together by Lars Schmeink, a lecturer and sf scholar at the University of Hamburg. Here's how they describe the purpose of their website:

A Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction (VSF) is an online teaching toolkit for those interested in science fiction. It addresses anyone who wants to know more about the genre and provides introductory information for students, teachers and fans. As a toolkit it is specifically aimed at teachers who want to enhance their classes with, or prepare a course on science fiction. As such, you will not only find introductory essays but also pre-recorded lectures as well as further material for classroom use, all of which is prepared by experts of the field from around the world.

Use the lectures to have a specialist introduce the topic to your students, or read the introductory essays for your own preparation. Design your syllabus using the story recommendations or prepare classes with the help of VSFs further reading recommendations and in-class discussion point suggestions. You can also find recommendations for course books or free of charge online-resources.

All of this material is free of charge and fully licensed under the creative commons license (more info in the right lower corner). You can use the full toolkit including downloads of all materials. Just remember fair academic use and citation of sources.

The site includes a basic overview of the history of Science Fiction, as well as information on topics such as Race in Science Fiction and what, exactly, the genre is. There's a bunch of video lectures -- check them out!

Chris Cokinos' Sci Fi Short Story Syllabus

History of the Science Fiction Short Story English 5340: Literature, Science and Environment Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.-11:45 p.m., FL307 Read more »

World-Building Lesson Plan

A lesson from Ben Cartwright showing how to guide your students through the creation of a science fiction or fantasy setting. This can help improve understanding of geography, climate, and solar systems, as well as consideration of existing settings. Read more »

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